Yankees changed fate picking Giancarlo Stanton over Christian Yelich


Even when the New York Yankees import former MVPs these days, they’re bargain shopping.

Derek Jeter must’ve known it, too.

What once appeared to be a gift from The Captain now seems like a monkey’s paw — always tantalizing, rarely fulfilling its potential, and often non-functional.

Things could’ve been so much brighter for the current Yankees, as well as the Yankees of the next several years, if they’d simply decided to change the subject slightly while on the phone with the Miami Marlins following the 2017 season.

Imagine where we’d be if Brian Cashman (with Hal Steinbrenner’s blessing) had said, “Yeah, we understand Giancarlo Stanton’s available at a discount. Seems fishy. We’d be willing to dig a little deeper for Christian Yelich, actually, if you see anything you like.”

Yes, the Yankees could’ve saved their money to sign one of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado following the 2018 season, but knowing the way this front office operates, that seems like a less valuable conversation right now. There is no way to wrap your head around Hal Steinbrenner inking both an offensive force in 2018-19 and Gerrit Cole in 2019-20.

Instead, this conversation boils down to the Miami Marlins’ offerings after the 2017 campaign. The Yankees were offered the 2017 NL MVP at a significant discount, and he joined the lineup (sometimes) while looking redundant next to Aaron Judge.

The Milwaukee Brewers instead bet on potential and dealt a relative haul for Christian Yelich, a contact bat whose power hadn’t bloomed yet, but who already felt like a better complement to Judge, even with his ceiling unrealized. It’s clear now they chose correctly — and the busted prospect package they offered also proves why Brian Cashman shouldn’t be quite so precious with his assets.

The Yankees should’ve chosen Christian Yelich over Giancarlo Stanton.

Yelich’s power stroke emerged immediately at the age of 26 after he arrived in Milwaukee. He topped his previous career high in homers (21) with a mammoth 36 in an MVP campaign, then followed that up with a ridiculous 44 dingers in a 2019 season shortened by a disastrous kneecap fracture (total accident in Arizona).

Imagine how much more the lefty could’ve thrived if he had Yankee Stadium’s short porch for 81 games?

Now playing on a nine-year extension (with a mutual option) that could take him through 2029, the presumptive end of his career, Yelich was available for what was considered a king’s ransom after 2017. Ultimately, the package of Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison and Jordan Yamamoto (now a Met) looks like nothing much of consequence.

Stanton? Since the Yankees picked up the remainder of his salary, all they handed Miami was Rafael Devers’ lower-profile brother Jose, pitcher Jorge Guzman, and Starlin Castro. Unfortunately, what they acquired was an exceedingly expensive DH with prodigious power, mounting injury concerns and the type of swing-and-miss reliance that doesn’t contrast with the rest of the lineup.

Though this diatribe might read as an attack on Stanton, it shouldn’t. He hasn’t risen to stardom without reason. He didn’t trip into an MVP award. He hits the ball harder and further than almost anyone alive.

He works best, though, as the centerpiece of a lineup and a unique force who can clean up his fellow teammates on the base paths. Paired with a fellow big swinger like Aaron Judge who brings with him all the same concerns, it’s always felt…incongruous. Less a supplement, more a redundancy.

The cons? If the Yankees had traded for Yelich, fans would be starting to whine about his proneness to injury right about…now.

Stanton’s injuries, prior to coming to the Bronx, were mostly freakish in nature (his broken jaw, for example). It didn’t take a soothsayer to predict his monstrous body would eventually begin to break down in more traditional ways, though.

Could Yelich’s knee injury be the beginning of a long slope towards missed games? We doubt it, but technically, you never know.

Considering the seasons he already provided in 2018 and 2019, though, it’s a very safe belief that the addition of Yelich instead of Stanton would’ve carried the Yankees past the Astros in ’19, if not Boston in ’18.

Instead, the Yanks will be paying Stanton through 2027 to play exactly one position. Not such a bargain anymore.